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The Araluen project for 2015 has grown to include; RMIT second year BATD, communication design + intrapreneurship students, local digital fabric printing business Frankie + Swiss, and The Big Idea.

The brief included 2 phases. Phase 1: The immediate need – develop products for Araluen to sell in the lead up to Christmas 2015 (post to come) and Phase 2: The long term need….

At the beginning of the semester we didn’t have a clear idea on what this might be.  After some initial research we discovered that there was an opportunity for us to explore sensory textiles and their application to interior spaces for adults on the autism spectrum.  After reading a fantastic article by Gaudian et al titled “A designer’s approach: how can autistic adults with learning disabilities be involved in the design process?” students began to use their textile design skills to explore the six sensory systems of touch, sight, sound, smell, vestibulation and proprioception specific to hyper-sensitivity (i.e., being overly sensitive) and hypo-sensitivity (i.e., a lack of sensitivity).  The project encouraged students to experiment with materials and techniques and to speculate on how they could be used to stimulate or calm individuals on the autism spectrum.

Karen Tytler from AMAZE (Autism Victoria) generously provided her time and expertise giving students an indication of what it might be like for people who experience hyper or hypo sensitivity to stimulus.  She shared a very moving documentary titled spectrospective: stories of autism which provided first and second hand accounts of living with autism.


Image: Araluen’s Helen Ryan and Karla Birch meet with BATD student Maria Dare to discuss her collection of brightly coloured 3D croquis.


In the time since students have been working individually and collaboratively to develop croquis using both analogue and digital techniques. Overall the project provided textile students with a different way of working, guided by intuition and play rather than trends and market segments.


sensory croquis 1 sensory croquis 2
Image: collection of sensory croquis by second year BATD students



Gabby Draffen: sensory croquis concept for flooring.  Image credit: Gabby Draffen.

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